What leads us to the paths we decide to take in life? What led me to become a software engineer compared to so many capable women who don’t?
- My highschool.
- My college bff.
I had a slightly unconventional highschool education; I went to an all girls private school in NJ. Although the programming classes were limited to a single basic class senior year, what I learned from my peers gave me the confidence to continue as a computer science major in college. The women I went to highschool with were extremely intelligent, motivated and dedicated. After 4 years of comparing myself to these women academically I was shocked in college by my abilities compared to my college peers. Knowing that I could keep up academically with the amazing women I went to high school with gave me the confidence to continue as a computer science major in college, even if I was the minority and considered by many to be weaker in technology.
In college the girl 2 doors down from me freshman year also planned to double major in Math and Computer Science… just like me! After the first week of Computer Science Intro freshman year it was clear that Brenda was one of the best CS students, if not the best. Observing Brenda’s confidence and abilities encouraged me not to be discouraged by the new ways of thinking required by programming and my initially mediocre grades. Having a woman to talk to about the classes and projects and bounce ideas off of made the entire computer science degree much less intimidating.
One of the main difficulties in recruiting women to tech, is the lack of women in tech…the old chicken and egg problem. There is that feeling of “otherness” that is so hard to overcome. The classes, because taught by mostly males, are targeted more for men. How do we overcome this as a culture?
There are lots of opinions regarding why we need more women in tech and how to recruit more women to technology related fields. Based on my experiences I feel that the most critical piece is providing young girls, teenagers and women intelligent, strong, determined female mentors.
Knowing women who are smarter and stronger than me, and not necessarily tech women, is a huge confidence booster in a male dominated field. There is great value in exposing girls to other female peers and role models who share their intelligence and motivation for learning, even if it is not computer science related.
Based on my experiences I feel that there are concrete things you and I can do to recruit more women into technology, specifically focused on mentoring, working with peers, and providing female role models. Look for this in an upcoming post.